The Apostolic Letter
“Motu Proprio data”
of His Holiness Pope
English translation © 2007 Br. Alexis Bugnolo
The Supreme Pontiffs’ care has been, now and ever, that Christ’s Church would offer a due worship of the Divine Majesty, « to the praise and glory of His Name » and « for the utility of His entire Holy Church ».
From time immemorial just as even unto the future, the principle to be kept is « in accord with this that each particular Church ought to concord with the Universal Church not only in regard to the doctrine of the Faith and the sacramental Signs, but even in regard to the uses universally accepted by Apostolic and continuous Tradition, which are to be observed not only to avoid errors, but even to hand down the integrity of the Faith, because the Church’s law of praying may respond to Her law of believing ».1
Among the Pontiffs, who employed such a due care, the name of Saint Gregory the Great stands out, who cared to transmit to the peoples of Europe as much the Catholic Faith as the treasures of the worship and culture accumulated by the Romans in the preceding ages. He commanded that there be defined and conserved the form of the Sacred Liturgy as much of the Sacrifice of the Mass as of the Divine Office. He fostered most of all the monks, who serving under the Rule of St. Benedict illustrated with their life everywhere that most salubrious sentence of the Rule together with the annunciation of the Gospel, « that nothing is to be placed before the work of God » (chapter 43). In such a manner the sacred liturgy according to the Roman custom made fecund not only the faith and piety but even the culture of many nations. It is established, indeed, that the Latin liturgy in its various forms stimulated very many of the Saints of the Church in the spiritual life in all the ages of Christian history and strengthened all peoples in the virtue of religion and fecundated their piety.
Moreover so that the Sacred Liturgy more efficaciously fulfill this duty, several other Roman Pontiffs during the course of the ages expended peculiar solicitude, among whom Saint Pius V stands out, who with great pastoral study, at the exhortation of the Council of Trent, innovated [innovavit] the whole worship of the Church, took care to emend the liturgical books and « restore [instauratorum] them to the norm of the Fathers » and granted to the Latin Church that they be used.
Among the liturgical books of the Roman Rite it is clear that the Missale Romanum stands forth, which grew up in the City of Rome, and assumed (its) forms gradually with the passing of ages, which (books) have a great similarity to that in force in more recent generations.
« Which same proposal with the progress of time the Roman Pontiffs have pursued, when they accommodated the liturgical books of the rite to, or determined them for, new times, and (when) they then at the beginning of our century embraced (their) now more ample restoration [redintegrationem] ».2 Thus, indeed, did Our Predecessors Clement VIII, Urban VIII, St. Pius X,3 Benedict XV, Pius XII and Bl. John XXII act.
Moreover, in more recent times, the Second Vatican Council expressed the desire, that due observance and reverence would again be restored [instauraretur] toward divine worship and that it would be adapted to the necessities of Our age. Moved by which desire, Our Predecessor the Supreme Pontiff, Paul VI, approved for the Latin Church the restored and partially innovated liturgical books in the year 1970; which having been converted into the very many vulgar tongues of earth, were received by the Bishops and priests and faithful willingly. John Paul II, recognized the Third Typical Edition of the Roman Missal. Thus the Roman Pontiffs have worked so that « this liturgical edifice » might appear « again splendid in dignity and elegancy ».4
But in some regions not a few of the faithful adhered and continued to adhere with great love and affection to the antecedent liturgical forms, which imbued their culture and spirit so profoundly, such that the Supreme Pontiff, John Paul II, moved by the pastoral care of these faithful, conceded in the year 1984, by the special Indult “Quattuor abhinc annos”, issued by the Congregation for Divine Worship, the faculty of using the Missale Romanum of John XXIII, published in 1962; moreover in the year 1988 John Paul II again, with the Apostolic Letter “Ecclesia Dei”, given as a Motu Proprio, exhorted the Bishops to employ such a faculty broadly and generously in favor of all the faithful petitioning for it.
With the pressing prayers of these faithful pondered over for a long time by Our Predecessor John Paul II, (and) heard also in the Consistory held by Our Father Cardinals in the month of March of the year 2006, being all maturely pondered, having invoked the Holy Spirit and confiding in God’s help, we decree with the present Letters Apostolic those (things) which follow:
Article 1. Let the Missale Romanum promulgated by Paul VI be held as the ordinary expression of the “Law of prayer” of the Catholic Church of the Latin Rite. But let the Missale Romanum promulgated by St. Pius V and published anew by Bl. John XXIII be held as the extraordinary expression of the same “Law of prayer” of the Church and let it enjoy due honor on account of its venerable and ancient use. Let these two expression of the Church’s “law of praying”, lead, least of all, to a division in the Church’s “law of believing”; for they are two uses of the unique roman rite.
Next, it is licit that one celebrate the Sacrifice of the Mass, according to the typical edition of the Missale Romanum promulgated by Bl. John XXIII in the year 1962 and never abrogated,* as the extraordinary form of the Liturgy of the Church. However, the conditions established by the antecedent documents, “Quattuor abhinc annos” and “Ecclesia Dei” for the use of this Missale, are substituted as follows:
Article 2. In Masses celebrated without the people, any catholic priest of the Latin rite, whether secular or religious, is able to use either the Missale Romanum published by Bl. John XXIII in the year 1962, or the Missale Romanum promulgated by the Supreme Pontiff Paul VI in the year 1970, and indeed on any day, except the Sacred Triduum. For such a celebrated according to one or the other Missal, the priest needs no permission [nulla licentia], neither from the Apostolic See nor from his own Ordinary.
Article. 3. If the communities of the Institutes of consecrated life and of the Societies of apostolic life of pontifical or diocesan right desire to have a celebration of the Holy Mass according to the edition of the Missale Romanum promulgated in the year 1962, in their own oratories, as a conventual or communal celebration, it is licit for them. If each community or the whole Institute and/or Society wants to perform very frequently and/or permanently such celebrations, let the matter be discerned by the major superiors according to the norm of law and their own particular laws and statutes.
Article 4. The Christian faithful, who ask for this on their own initiative, can also be admitted to the celebrations of the Holy Mass which were (spoken of) above in Article 2, having observed what is to be observed according to the law
Article 5, §1. In the parishes, where a gathering [coetus] of the faithful exists adhering as a group [continenter]1 to the antecedent liturgical tradition, let the pastor freely [libenter] take up their petitions to celebrate the Holy Mass according to the rite of the Missale Romanum published in the year 1962. Let him see that good of these faithful be harmonized with the ordinary pastoral care of the parish, under the rule of the bishop according to the norms of canon 392, by avoiding discord and by fostering the unity of the whole Church.
§ 2. The celebration of the Missal of Bl. John XXIII can take place on ferial days; but on Sundays and Feasts there can also be one celebration of this kind.
§ 3. With the faithful or priests asking for this, let the pastor permit celebrations, in this extraordinary form even in additional particular (circumstances), such as are weddings, funerals and occasional celebrations, v. g. pilgrimages.
§ 4. Priest using the Missale of Bl. John XXIII, ought to be fit and (ought) not be impeded.
§ 5. In churches, which are neither parochial nor conventual, there is a conceding of permission concerning what was (mentioned) above to the Rector of the Church.
Article 6. In Masses according to the Missal of Bl. John XXIII, celebrated with the people, the Lectiones can be proclaimed also in the vernacular tongue, by using the editions (of the readings) recognized by the Apostolic See.
Article 7. Where any gathering of the lay faithful, does not obtain from (their) pastor by a petition made in accord with Article 5, § 1, let the diocesan Bishop make certain of the matter. The Bishop is eagerly asked to hear out their wish. If he cannot provide for a celebration of this kind, le the matter be referred to the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei”.
Article 8. The Bishop, who wants to provide for petitions of this kind by the Christian lay faithful, but who is impeded on account of various causes, can commit the matter to the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei”, which will give him counsel and assistance.
Article 9, § 1. The pastor, likewise, having considered all (things) well, (and) having been persuaded to it for the good of souls, can concede permission to use the more ancient ritual in the administration of the sacraments of Baptism, Matrimony, Penance and the Anointing of the Infirm.
§ 2. Moreover the faculty is conceded to the Ordinaries, (who) have been persuaded to it for the good of souls, of celebrating the Sacrament of Confirmation by using the ancient Roman Pontifical.
§ 3. It is allowed to clerics constituted in sacred (orders) to use also the Roman Breviary promulgated by Bl. John XXIII in the year 1962.
Article 10. It is allowed to the Ordinary of the place, if he would judge it opportune, to erect a personal parish according to the norm of canon 518 for celebrations according to the more ancient form of the roman rite or to nominate a rector and/or chaplain, having observed what is to be observed according to the law.
Article 11. The Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei”, erected by John Paul II in the year 1988,5 continues to fulfill its duty.
Which Commission is to have the form, duties and norms of acting, which the Roman Pontiff willed to attribute to it.
Article 12. The same Commission, besides the faculties which it already enjoys, will exercise the authority of the Apostolic See, by being vigilant for the observance and application of these dispositions.
On the other hand, we command that all these, whatsoever has been decreed by Us in these Letters Apostolic, given as a Motu Proprio, be firm and ratified and (we command that they) be observed from the 14th day of September of this year, on the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, not withstanding any contrary things.
Given at Rome, at St. Peter’s, on the 7th day of the month of July, in the year of Our Lord 2007, in the third (year) or our Pontificate.
Pope Benedict XVI.
 Institutio generalis Missalis Romani, Editio tertia, 2002, 397
 Ioannes Paulus Pp. II, Litt. ap. Vicesimus quintus annus (4 Decembris 1988), 3: AAS 81 (1989), 899.
S. Pius Pp. X, Litt. Ap. Motu proprio datae Abhinc duos annos (23 Octobris 1913): AAS 5 (1913), 449-450; cfr Ioannes Paulus II, Litt. ap. Vicesimus quintus annus (4 Decembris 1988), 3: AAS 81 (1989), 899.
 Cfr Ioannes Paulus Pp. II, Litt. ap. Motu proprio datae Ecclesia Dei (2 iulii 1988), 6: AAS 80 (1988), 1498.
* Translator’s Note: The Missale Romanum promulgated by Pope St. Pius V, by his Apostolic Constitution, Quo Primum, is only a liturgical book, as such it cannot be abrogated, because it is not a legal document. In saying, therefore, that it was “never abrogated,” H. H. Benedict XVI testifies solemnly that the Apostolic Constitution by which it was promulgated remains in force with all its effects, thus clarifying the great confusion sown by the enemies of the Apostolic See and the partisans of discord, who falsely claimed and claim that the Apostolic Constitution, Missale Romanum of Pope Paul VI, touched the Apostolic Constitution of he saintly predecessor, and in some manner either totally or in part abrogated, derogated, or obrogated it.
In this the present Holy Father, Benedict XVI, affirms the immemorial principle of interpreting Papal pronouncements: what is not explicitly mentioned is not enacted, abrogated, derogated, or obrogated. It also refutes the erroneous opinion published by the Congregation for Divine Worship (On 28 October 1974), which claimed that the Apostolic Constitution of Paul VI obrogated that of St. Pius V, and that the New Missal was obligatory for all clergy.
1 – The Latin continenter is being variously rendered by unofficial English translation as continuously, stable, uninterruptedly; but these are all faulty because they contradict the historical and pastoral context of the document, which is to provide for the faithful who request the Ancient Rite, who do not have access to this Rite. The more general notion of continenter is “as in a manner held together”, that is, “as a body”, “as a group”, “commonly”, “together”, and thus the sense is who petition for this as a group.